Takakura Shinichiro

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  • Died: 1990

Takakura Shin'ichirô has been described as the father of Ainu Studies.

Born and raised in Obihiro, Hokkaidô, he attended Hokkaidô University beginning in 1920, and taught there until his mandatory retirement in 1966.

Takakura published two thorough survey histories of Hokkaidô, one in 1937, and one in 1981. His 1942 book Ainu seisakushi, or "History of Ainu Policy," is particularly significant within the historiography on the Ainu. Covering the period from 1600 to 1899, the book focuses on the Edo period and Meiji period as the high points of Japanese-Ainu interaction, and has been criticized for its failure to acknowledge earlier periods of internal colonization. As was typical in scholarship until quite recently, Takakura's works also do not explicitly recognize Hokkaidô as the site of "colonization" or "imperialism," but rather as a continuation of a history of Japanese expansion into the archipelago - a kind of Japanese "Manifest Destiny." Even in discussing the Meiji period, Takakura marks Japanese colonialism as beginning only with the conquest of Taiwan in 1895, and not with the annexation of Hokkaidô or Okinawa in the 1870s.

In line with the rhetoric of his age, Takakura represented the prospects of the survival of the Ainu people, as a people, as being tied to formal government protection, including through the Former Natives Protection Law of 1899. Takakura lauded the Meiji government for freeing the Ainu from "feudal" conditions, and lambasted the lords of Matsumae han for failing to protect the Ainu from commercial & industrial exploitation. He saw assimilation as the best course for Ainu survival in a modern world. However, he also argued for an acknowledgement of the diversity of northern peoples, not all of whom were Ainu, and argued that Ainu were neither primitive nor isolated, but rather were quite actively engaged in trade and other interactions with Japanese, Manchus, and peoples of Siberia.

Though very much outdated in many ways, Takakura's work was also quite progressive in some respects. In fact, some prominent later works, such as Okuyama Tôru's 1966 Ainu suibôshi ("The Decline of the Ainu"), are rather less nuanced than Takakura's treatments.


  • David Howell, "Is Ainu History Japanese History?," in ann-elise lewallen, Mark Hudson, Mark Watson (eds.), Beyond Ainu Studies, University of Hawaii Press (2015), 104-106.